D&R Greenway, the Cadwalader Park Alliance and the City of Trenton celebrated the opening of the Cadwalader Park Natural Area in Trenton on Saturday, October 22. Bees, birds and butterflies are the usual visitors enjoying the healthy restoration project, and Saturday’s windy wet weather couldn’t deter the city’s nature enthusiasts from joining in.
“This event celebrates the culmination of seven years of work, from getting funding to designing and planting, managing meadow establishment and installing trails,” says D&R Greenway Vice-President Jay Watson. “With volunteers from the Isles YouthBuild program, TerraCycle, Mercer County Community College horticulture department, Educational Testing Service, Ba’hai Faith church, area civic organizations and D&R Greenway’s ‘Wednesday Morning Crew,’ we have restored the stream corridor that was severely eroded and draining directly into the Delaware River just upstream of the Trenton Water Works intake. And finally we worked with the City to remove the old ragged chain link fence from the entire perimeter, reconnecting this section to the park, and creating new public access to this unique feature.”
“Cadwalader Park is the crown jewel of our park system and we are happy that nonprofit groups like D&R Greenway Land Trust and the Cadwalader Park Alliance are working with the City to conduct these unique and important projects in our landscape,” said Mayor Eric E. Jackson.
Visitors today may see a nesting green heron or an Eastern box turtle in the heart of Cadwalader Park, “Trenton’s Central Park” designed in 1891 by “father of American landscape architecture” Frederick Law Olmsted.
“This is the only park in the state designed by Olmsted,” says Cadwalader Park Alliance’s Randy Baum, a landscape architect with Brownfield Redevelopment Solutions and former landscape architect for the City of Trenton. “Though the park has suffered through several decades of funding cutbacks, it still retains many of the landscape and spatial qualities present in the original plan. Our goal was to restore the physical and ecological infrastructure of the park, including its trees, streams, woodlands and ponds.”
Cadwalader Park is beloved by those who recall pony rides, picnics, concerts and the balloon man. D&R Greenway Conservation Biologist Diana Raichel shares similar memories. In 2008, she met with Trenton-based Isles and City staff to discuss partnering on a restoration project that could ultimately provide environmental education opportunities for Trenton schoolchildren. “We looked at possible sites and Cadwalader Park seemed a natural choice,” says Raichel. “We were looking to improve a degraded area and bring it back to a healthy system. The City was about to relocate the remaining animals in the deer paddock.” Deer, geese, ducks and even unusual animals such as peacocks and camels inhabited the paddock at some point in time. Raichel recollects visiting the park as a child and feeding them.
But “the stream corridor was very eroded and the area was denuded of vegetation from the presence of grazing animals for many years. It made the perfect canvas for an ecological restoration,” Raichel says.
Grants were obtained from the New Jersey Mitigation Council, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Corporate Wetlands Mitigation Council and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to improve the quality of water entering the Delaware River, increase biodiversity and provide environmental education opportunities.
The project included creation and enhancement of wetlands, meadows and woodland. “Creating wetlands here was important for improving water quality,” says Raichel. “From storm water racing through, the streambanks were highly eroded and the water was loaded with sediment. The wetlands and meadow vegetation slows down the water and helps protect the quality of the stream.”
On the October 22 tour, Raichel took visitors, wearing boots, along the mown paths and pointed out habitat areas and wetlands. Now that the area supports bees and butterflies and provides shelter and food for birds, visitors may see anything from crayfish or red tailed hawk to wood duck, Baltimore oriole, red-winged blackbirds, eastern bluebird, belted kingfisher and great blue heron, all of which have been observed here since natural areas have been established.
To learn more about D&R Greenway and land preservation in central New Jersey, visit www.drgreenway.org.